We were all sad to have to say, “good-bye” to our new friend, Amy Nichol, but BLAST-OFF training was over and it was time to move onto the National Leadership Conference for State Officers (NLCSO) in Peach Tree, Georgia! We joined by teams from South Carolina, Florida, Indiana, and of course, Georgia. We finally arrived at our beautiful hotel after about 8 hours in the van, where we greeted by the wonderful boys of the Geogia state FFA officer team. Being the southern gentlemen that they were, they carried each of our bags to our room (I think they may have even carried a few of John’s). Once we got all of our luggage to our room’s we settled in for the night. Beverly, Hannah, and Caroline were in one room; Katie and I stayed in another with the only female state officer from South Carolina. As it turned out, the NC and SC state officers teams were perfectly opposite; we have five girls and one boy, they have one girl and five boys. Mr. Davis told the South Carolina executive secretary, “we’ll have to organize a square dance sometime.” John was fortunate enough to get to share a room with some more of our South Carolinian friends, who happened to be pretty good with a guitar and banjo. That night John finally got some “bro time” and “picked with the fellas!” However, mornings always come early for a state FFA officer, so it wasn’t too long before the hall was quiet.
The next few days, we got to know each state officer team extremely well, while also having the privilege of getting to know national officers, Landon Schaffert and Shannon Norris. Our theme for the week was called, “Assembly: Can We Build It? Yes, We Can!” What were we building you ask? Each team there had only been elected a few weeks at most, or a few days in our case, so throughout the week we focused on building our own teams. Each day we were presented with workshop ideas, presentation skills, opportunities to network, and chances to perform for the first time as a team. In addition to workshop activities, we were assigned three additional jobs for the week. One: opening ceremony, two: flag raising, and three: mock workshop.
The first task we completed was opening ceremony. With exclusion of Mr. President, we all picked a part we were comfortable with saying, which started our rotation for the year. Whatever we said that day, we would rotate up one position the next time, since we are no longer assigned positions and simply serve as state Vice President. For the first time together, I was proud of the smoothness and power presented by my team. Nothing gets me excited quite like opening ceremony and getting to hear it for the first time from the 2011-2012 state officers was an amazing experience. Members, you can trust me when I say you would have been proud of your officer team.
Our second task was the raising of the flags. Those who came to State Leadership Conference actually got to see our presentation; it was created at NLCSO. Each officer took a part of the Pledge of Allegiance and broke it down into their own words. We said each part in order, until we got to the last two words, “for all.” Here, we broke pattern. We each took a turn giving an example of an American citizen that the flag stands in their honor. For example, we individually stated, “for the farmers, for the businssmen, for the FFA members, for the troops, etc.” And then, in unison, “for all.”
Our last assignment for the week was creating a mock workshop. We had 45 minutes to to write a workshop on a topic of our choice, present it, and then receive feedback from the national FFA officers. Our topic: skills learned through the FFA. Being completely new to the idea of “the Magic Formula” for workshops we were all riding the struggle bus just a little. Plus, facilitating a workshop with 6 people is also quite the challenge. However, we got through it with surprising ease. Both our friends from the other states as well as Shannon and Landon were complimentary of your officer team. We learned many tips that day that bettered our performance as officers and picked up a few activities we would like to share with you all throughout the upcoming year.
When Friday finally came, we were missing good ole North Cack-a-lackey, especially since the first week of SLC was right around the corner! However, we had a surprise waiting for us that night. We got to attend an Atlanta Braves’ game! As my first major league baseball game, I can’t tell you how excited I was to be in the heart of Atlanta, or to rub it in my baseball fanatic brother’s face! I could have made him a peanut butter and jealous sandwich! That night the Braves were taking on the Orioles. Right before the game started, our team got another surprise, the group singing the National Anthem was from none other than Shelby, NC. That night I learned the Braves war cry, how to eat a hot dog properly, and reinforced the fact that I am beyond lucky to have been selected to serve the Tarheel state.
When Saturday morning came, we wished all of our friends well, piled back into the van, and made our way back to “the land of North Caroline.” The ride home seemed a lot longer than one to Georgia. We were all so anxious to get home and see our families for the first time since being elected, to sleep in our own beds, but most of all, to begin that journey to White Lake that coming Sunday. We were all beginning to fully realize both our scope of service and the amazing year that lay ahead of us. We couldn’t wait to see what was just around the corner.